On their debut album, A Long Year, The Big Easy ignores genres to deliver a bracing blast of low-fi energy driven by wailing guitars, relentless drumming, rumbling bass, and the energetic vocals of Stephen Berthomieux, the band’s songwriter, guitarist, and producer. Elements of punk, emo, R&B, hard rock, and folk come together with energy to spare, all in service of Berthomieux’s candid lyrics. He says that the tunes on the album were actually in the works for more than a year.
“This was going to be a solo project,” Berthomieux says from his Brooklyn home. “I’ve been in bands and writing songs since I was 16. I’ve been around the scene in Brooklyn for a long time. I’ve always had a rotating cast of musicians around me for my solo projects, but for this record, I solidified the line up. We’ve been trucking along for a while.”
The current line up includes Berthomieux on guitar and vocals, guitarist Stephen Adams, and drummer Pete Clark. To make the album, he enlisted Tom Warren from The Front Bottoms to play second guitar and co-produce.
“Tom’s been my best friend for most of my life. I used to hang out in his family’s basement and play video games. His brothers were all in bands, and there were instruments all around. One day, I picked up the bass and started playing. I never stopped. So we demoed the songs together in his basement. Pete played drums. No one can nail it like he can. Almost everything else was done by Tom and I, working together for a more than a year. Steve did some guitar here and there. We all have day jobs, so we worked when we could.”
“We set up the drum kit in Tom’s basement and played,” Berthomieux continues. “When we wanted a boomy sound, we put a mic in the basement bathroom, while we recorded in the actual basement. We did that to record the guitars, drums, and vocals, to get that basement, compressed, live, low-fi sound.”
The album does have a muddy sound with guitar, bass, and vocals often blending into an intense full frontal attack.
“I wanted to produce a low-fi, garage sounding album, but make it accessible for a larger audience,” Berthomieux says. “Many people respond to lyrics being heard and crisp recording techniques, but I wanted people to know The Big Easy is a low-fi band. I think that distorted sound conveys a lot of personality. I wanted to find the middle ground between the two, to make it basementy, but digestible for a lot of people. The lyrics are all reflective on certain instances in my life, but they’re written more to convey emotions, more than any specific meaning.
“Sometimes, I want to ram the emotion down your throat,” he concludes. “On other songs, I want you to hear the riff, or the feel the melody. My aspiration is always to make a strong connection with the listener. I want the songs to resonate, musically and emotionally.”
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